Groggily, Nelson and I boarded a microbus and we headed out for the Tikal National Park. I most definitely knocked out on the ride there and only awoke once we arrived at the main gate.
At the gate, we were greeted by the park employee, Boris. Boris insisted that despite his Russian name, he was 100% Guatemalan and a native of Flores. After an energetic introduction, Boris collected park entry fees from all those aboard the bus.
The Tikal National Park costs $20 for foreigners to enter, one of the most expensive entry fees I’ve paid for anything in Latin America, but it was definitely well worth it.
Now, the hostel offered a tour service for an additional $20, but it’s getting to the end of my trip and I’m trying to conserve money where I can. Luckily, Boris was a very amiable guy and also I think pleased with the fact that we spoke Spanish, so he invited us on his tour with him free of charge.
Following some quick coffee at the park’s only restaurant, The Jaguar Inn, we headed into the park and amongst the ruins. The first pyramid we came across was out in the middle of clearing and had some large, round stones sitting in front of it. Boris informed us that these are were sacrifices and offerings were made on feast/ritual days, which was the primary purpose of Tikal.
We continued into another clearing to a couple of more temples were I learned that the Mayans used limestone and cement to construct all their temples. Unlike the pyramids of Europe, the pyramids at Tikal didn’t require generations and generations of workers to make. Because the limestone bricks were cut smaller and weigh less, a temple could be constructed in only a couple years.
As we walked around the park, the pyramids seemed to just keep getting bigger and bigger. One can’t help but feel awestruck when walking around these structures created hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
The next stop on the tour was the famous Temple IV. While most of the exterior is still under construction, visitors the park are still allowed to climb to the tob of Temple IV as it is the highest temple in the park and offers an incredible view.
Temple IV is also quite famous thanks to Mr. George Lucas. In the original Star Wars, Temple IV is used as the site of the Rebel base on the planet of Yavin IV before the attack on the Death Star is made (nerd alert). The six-year-old within me hurried up the steps with glee, for as much as working in Hollywood may have jaded me from these kind of things, Star Wars is still Star Wars.
The view from above Temple IV is incredible. The tall stone structures poke out over the Guatemalan jungle and the early morning mist pours out over the horizon. It is probably one of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever laid my eyes on.
From the view of Temple IV, Boris chronologically led us to Tikal’s massively impressive Temple V. Previously, visitors to Tikal were allowed to Temple V, bue due to some accidents and some recent innovations it is currently undergoing, this is no longer the case. However, Boris decided to bend the rules for whatever reason and allowed us to climb Temple V on some suspicious looking stairs.
The climb up was fine and definitely put my calf muscles to work. Several of the other tourists made statements of safety concerns and wondering if we were all just stupid for even doing this in the first place, but I just reasoned that I came all the way out here to Guatemala to see some Mayan ruins and I was going to take full advantage of every opportunity that came my way. After all, there’s a thin line between caution and paranoia.
At the top, I could see the main square and much of the park from another amazing view. It’s incredible to think what it must have been like to be a traveler hundreds of years ago and to come across these architectural marvels.
For whatever reason, I found myself drawn to examine the texture of the pyramids themselves while atop Temple V. The view, of course, is amazing, but my focus shifted to how each and every little pebble and stone contributed its part to give this scenic gift me. Or, perhaps, I just didn’t want to look down. We were pretty high up.
I won’t like and say that the climb down didn’t scare me. I got pretty terrified knowing that one misstep or miscalculation would send me hurtling to my death, but I was had already climbed up and had no other option but to see myself down. One of my biggest goals of traveling has been to conquer fear in all its inceptions and here was one other opportunity to do just that and surprise myself. I was glad to reach solid ground again.
After catching my breath and collecting myself a bit, Boris led us from Temple V to biggest area in Tikal: the main plaza. After some parting words, Boris left us to explore the two large temples, living quarters and other ruins.
After being led on a guided tour, I enjoyed the opportunity to climb and explore all on my own. While at Tikal, I found myself in a state of perpetual fascination, fascination at the architecture, fasciation with the Mayan culture and fascination with the fact that I was actually there and walking amongst these ruins.
One of my favorite pieces at Tikal is a Mayan carving found in a substructure within the main plaza. There is an intricate care taken in the design and line patterns in the work that is one of the most appealing aspects of the Mayan/Aztec artistic aesthetic.
While no one is allowed to climb Temple I, and it’s heavily guarded ensuring no one will do so, we did climb Temple II to get another perspective of the plaza. This climb is much easier than Temples IV or V and the view from atop offers a satisfying, conclusive feeling to the entire Tikal experience.
As Nelson and I headed back down the path towards the park entrance and to our bus ride back to Flores, it started to drizzle lightly. The water felt refreshing after all the hiking and climbing, but also the cloudy, melancholy atmosphere seemed fitting as we prepared to leave this great place.
The bus back was bumpy and cramped, but I didn’t really mind. The driver blasted some Juan Gabriel and I was still riding the high of getting to see a place in the world I always dreamed of going to.
Last Wednesday, our third housemate and friend Gavan returned to San Francisco after staying with us for three months. As Nelson and I looked at the coming schedule for the month of December and then my departure in January, we realized this would be the last weekend in which our talks of going to Guatemala could actually become a reality. With that, we set about plans to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
After we said our goodbyes and dropped off Gavan at the airport, Nelson’s father took us to San Salvador where we stayed the night with Nelson’s aunt. We awoke at 4:30AM the next morning to catch the 6AM bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City. We used the famous Tica Bus line and sat ourselves down for the first of what would be many hours on a bus.
As we approached the border to El Salvador and Guatemala, the bus opened its doors at a small side area where you are given 15 minutes to buy breakfast and exchange money. When we got off the bus, we were bombarded with people trying to sell us things and have you exchange money with them. It’s kind of overwhelming in a way, but we made our through and finally got to eat some pupusas.
We got back onto the bus and headed to the Salvadorian border checkpoint. There, officials came through and checked all of our passports and travel documents. Of course my passport is always a point of confusion here in Central America. First off, my picture is from 2004 so I’m a lot younger, chubbier and have different hair. Next, I have a a fully Latino name and I can communicate in Spanish, but my Spanish is with a Mexican accent and my passport is from the United States. I always get weird looks, then asked if my parents are Salvadorian. When I say, “No,” they want to know where my parents are from and what I’m doing in Central America. I got the look over quite a few times.
Seeing as how I’m not actually up to no good, we made it across the bridge at the border and onto the other side to deal with Guatemalan customs. In Guatemala, you have to get off the bus and stand in a line at the border where more people trying to get you to change money hound at you. I got my stamp to enter Guatemala far easier then when I entered El Salvador and we continued one our way to Guatemala City.
The Tica Bus approaches Guatemala City from above and descends down into this large metropolis. As we turned a mountain road, the vast cityscape came into view. We drove through a major business area where a large Christmas tree sat in a public square. However, instead of a star it was topped with a light-up rooster. Only in Latin America.
Guatemala City is broken into 12 different subzones with the bus dropping us in Zone 10. A woman working at the Tica Bus stop informed us of a shuttle service they have that would take us into Zone 1. It’s in Zone 1 where we could buy tickets for the 10-hour overnight bus ride into Flores, the gateway to Tikal.
Our shuttle driver was a character and looking to make some money. After he dropped off the first passenger at his hotel, he focused his attention to us and asked us where we were going and what our plans were. We told him we needed to change money, buy our tickets for the El Fuente del Norte bus line and get to the Cinelux where we hoped to catch the last day of a local film festival.
The driver offered to do all of this for us for a fee of $10, under the table of course. He proceeded to tell us about how dangerous Guatemala City was and how we was really doing this for our safety. For as much as he was totally bullshitting us, he did offer some helpful bits of information and got us to everywhere we needed, even if he did end up dropping us off four blocks away from the actual Cinelux.
This turned out in our favor though, as we found ourselves in the central square of Guatemala City facing the National Palace of Culture and la Calle Sexta, which is more or less Guatemala City’s version of something like the Grove or Americana.
We strolled through the city’s main square and find our way to the Cinelux where we actually managed to watch three shorts of varying quality as part of the Icaro Central American Film and Video Festival. The first short was a surreal drama from Spain that left me scratching my head (probably the same reaction some had to “Vision”), the second was a documentary on a Guatemalan beach community and their annual sea turtle festival (Festival de la Tortuga), and finally a documentary on an African festival that takes place annually in Cuba.
Following our film screenings, Nelson and I were starving and decided to take our chances with a Chinese restaurant on the la Calle Sexta. I ordered some ‘meat’ lettuce wraps that were quite delicious and tried a Gallo, Guatemala’s national beer. Random note, I’ve had Chinese food in both San Salvador and Guatemala City, and in both cities the meals are accompanied with two pieces of white bread as opposed to white rice. Still not sure why…
After dinner, we headed over and boarded our double-decker, leather seated bus that was scheduled to depart at 9PM. Once inside, I quickly fell asleep in my seat, awaking only when we crossed over some weird pot hole or the bus made an extremely sharp turn.
When I regained consciousness, we had arrived in Peten where we boarded a small motorized rickshaw that took us across a bridge and into the island community of Flores. Flores is the hub for tourists looking to travel to the Mayan ruins of Tikal. Flores is a very beautiful and small city, but it feels like a tourist trap. Every restaurant, hotel and business is catered to foreigners and their prices for food and groceries reflect that.
Nelson and I visited the tourist center and found a hostel to stay at called, “Los Amigos.” Owned and operated by Europeans, “Los Amgios” is a lively place with a full restaurant and bar that caters to young people traveling in Latin America. It also offers a bus service to Tikal that leaves at 5AM so you can get into the national park before the crowds arrive.
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned about travelling is how much tourists end up just socializing and talking with other tourists. People leave their homeland to see the world and experience other cultures, but only want to interact with locals when it comes to ordering dinner, a beer or asking for directions. I know it comes from a desire to feel safe in a new and foreign place, but do backpackers actually want to experience another culture or just sample it and collect passport stamps?
With our room situation and bus ride to Tikal organized for the next morning, we wandered the small city of Flores and decided to take swim in the lake surrounding the island. The water was crisp, clear and clean, and it was very fun jumping off the pier into the water.
Hunger showed its face once again, so we found a small restaurant to eat dinner at in which we shared the large appetizer plater of calamari, fried eggplant, quesadilla, chicken wings and seasoned potatoes. We capped the night with drinks at a local bar which had a good jazz band playing. Initially, we were the only audience members in the whole place, but luckily for us, other foreigners showed up and relieved some of that pressure.
My alarm buzzed me awake at 4:30 the next morning and we got ready to head to Tikal.
Had to say goodbye to some old friends today. I got these shoes while working as an Office PA on the film, “Beginners.” The Danish cinematographer left them behind and did not want them shipped back to him, so I swooped them. They’ve been with me to Phoenix, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Mexico and El Salvador, while also accompanying me to jobs on the Fox, Disney and CBS studio lots. Now, they are peppered with holes and tears. I may try and get a pair of the same when I return stateside…
The energetic positivity brought on by the sunset Perquin carried on into the evening as we sat around a bonfire in the wilderness. Members of the travel group recounted chistes (jokes) and sang songs while I mourned the fact that we were completely lacking of marshmallows.
When it came time to sleep, Gavan, Nelson and I returned to our cabana and settled into our beds. Due to the high altitude of Perquin, the temperature drops considerably in the evening. Unfortunately, Hotel Arizona only provides a single, thin sheet to keep yourself warm in the cold evenings. I ended up sleeping with my jacket and socks on, as well as taking a shot of rum, to keep warm in the frigid night.
At around 5:15 I awoke to the sound of Nelson bustling around the room. He said he was headed out to catch the sunrise, so Gavan and I groggily got dressed to join him knowing it was something that couldn’t be missed.
The three of us trekked along the main road until we reached perfect alignment with the orange glow forming over the horizon. We sat perched on the edge of a few rocks to watch the sun’s morning glow stretch out across the mountainsides. That warm and peaceful feeling overcame me once again, calming me and feeding a another heavy dose of energy.
It seemed it was over too soon. I couldn’t remember the last time I watched the sunrise or how fast it seemed to creep up over the mountains. Rather than head back, we decided to partake in some more exploring and wander this peculiar terrain and even spotted a small river before engaging in a rock fight. There was plenty of ammo at our disposable, though it’s hard to tell who won.
When we returned to the hotel we had a traditional breakfast and then headed out on another hike to a waterfall. The waterfall itself was located in a national park with campsites and other hiking trails, but once I caught glimpse of crystal clear water, it became my only concern.
The waterfall formed a series of pools beneath it, with the one directly below being the deepest and best for swimming. Cold, clean and fresh is the best way I can think of describing the water. I’m not quite sure if I’ve swam in a cleaner, natural water source, and this was after Lake Coatepeque.
We spent a few hours swimming and lying in the sun before returning to Hotel Arizona. As I packed up my luggage and got everything in order, I was hit with this strange feeling.
I loved this place, and yet some part of me knew that it might be the last time in my life I would ever see it. It’s a good four hours away from Suchitoto and there’s still plenty to see before my time here in El Salvador is done. What are the odds that I might ever get the time and money to make my way back to Perquin?
I boarded the bus and just told myself that, like an unforgettable night out with friends, the memory of an old relationship, or millions of other special moments, it’s better to not hold onto them and insist yourself upon them. Appreciate that you had your time with them and that it was special. Live in the moment and learn that some things you just have to let go.
A vacation from my vacation, that’s one way to look at my past weekend in Perquin, El Salvador. Through a travel group that Nelson’s aunt is a member of, we were given the opportunity to travel to the northwest region of the country that borders Honduras.
Nelson, Gavan and I awoke at 5:30 Saturday morning and made our way to meet our ride outside. Our neighbor, Chico, offered to take us to the bus in San Martin in his 1966 Toyota Special that will probably take its last breath in the near future. It was a fun ride to say the least.
Once on the tour bus, it was four hour drive to Perquin in which time I listened to a lot of music while staring out the window. I was reminded of how much I miss driving and the act of just going with good tunes blasting. It was nice to recapture a bit of that on this trip.
After my ass started to get all sorts of numb, we finally stopped at the hotel Perkin Lenca where we had lunch. When I got off the bus I marveled at the plant life and climate of the area. Perquin is over 1,000 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level and is unlike anything I’ve seen in El Salvador yet. It almost felt like being in parts of Northern California as I was surrounded by pine trees and cool breezes. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed in tropical regional like Central America.
While eating lunch, Nelson’s aunt, Concepción (Tia Con for short), told me a terrifying and gut-wrenching story about the Civil War here. In 1989, she was sitting in her home in San Salvador when she felt a quick, sharp pain her back. A warmth spread across the area and Con reached her hand back to see if an insect or spider had bit her. When she brought her hand back to her eyes she saw that it was covered in blood.
An aircraft had been firing on the area and a 50mm bullet had pierced through the roof of her house and shot her in the lower back. This happend at 7:30 AM, an ambulance didn’t arrive until 11:30 AM, a telling sign of the limited resources and tumultuous time in the country’s history. In that time, she wrapped herself in a bedsheet to slow the bleeding and applied pressure to the wound.
Once she finally arrived at the hospital, she said the pain had become unbearable, but that the doctors needed to x-ray her first before proceeding with any treatment. According to medical staff, the obscenely large bullet had narrowly missed her spinal column. If it had hit her spine she would’ve had permanent nerve damage and been paralyzed from the waist down. Luckily, the medical staff treated her wound and she suffers no long-term physical damage from the injury.
After a harrowing and perspective building lunch experience, the group travelled into Perquin to visit a museum chronicling the left-wing guerillas of the Civil War. It was in Perquin where the guerillas were stationed and operated a pirate radio station. There were several pieces of military equipment, left-wing propaganda and photos that helped me uncover a little bit more of El Salvador’s traumitizing and generation defining war.
At the museum, an ex-guerilla and veteran of the war showed us around. He obviously had left-leanings, but it was very interesting to hear his perspective, why he fought and its consequences.
Amongst the photos, posters and old weapons, there were a few pieces that stuck out to me. Placed outside the broadcasting room for the pirate radiostation was a photo of the FMLN guerillas who operated it. In the photo was a Mexican immigrant who helped the movement with the last name ‘Maravilla.’ I wonder if there is any family relation.
Another is that there were the large amounts of foreign (German, French) poster ads and propaganda demanding the U.S. cease it’s support of the right-wing militants. Today, the U.S. involvement in the war is still a sensitive subject and views of Reagan and his overall policies in this region are subject to high criticism. I can understand why. This wasn’t the U.S.’s war and it’s interference benefited American enterprise rather than the people and soliders who were actually sacrificing their lives.
After our mini museum tour we walked and wandered the small mountain town of Perquin itself. It reminded me more of the size and style of Cerrito in Mexico, but I could just be getting antsy about wanting to visit there again. Perquin is filled with many vibrant murals that depict farm life and the religious history of the town.
We hopped back onto the bus to head even higher in the mountains and to our final destination of Hotel Arizona in El Bailadero de Diablo. Hotel Arizona is planted in seemingly the middle of nowhere amongst the pines, tall grass and intricate rock formations. Gavan, Nelson and I were given a key to our cabana, a small room made to look like a log cabin that also had a hammock.
After settling in and getting acquainted with the hotel’s resident spider monkey, Pancho, we set out on some exploring of our own.
As we walked amongst the grass, smelled the pines and inhaled the crisp, clean air, we were consistently reiterating our disbelief that a place like this existed in El Salvador, a country the size of Rhode Island. It makes sense that the U.S., Mexico and other, larger countries have such climate and terrain variations, but I never expected that from El Salvador. This country surprises me almost every day.
Following our exploring, we hiked out to a scenic vista with the travel to enjoy the sunset. I found a particular rock the perch myself on and lie as the daily, simply beauty of a sunset unfolded before me.
While laying there I had this feeling in my stomach that I haven’t had for quite sometime. I was at peace with where I was and what I was doing. I wasn’t yearning for anyone or anything, but found satisfaction being purely in that the moment. The only thing floating in the back of the mind was the large list of all the projects I’m eager to get started and working towards. This feeling was one of almost profound contentment and of complete excitement.
Everyday I spend in Suchitoto I find myself very grateful for the guidance of my friend and former boss. She encouraged me to do this more than anyone I know and was effective in addressing my worries, but ultimately pushing me to grow in ways that I wouldn’t if I had chosen to stay in L.A.
One of her last parting bits of wisdom was to read Ernest Hemingway’s, A Moveable Feast while on my trip. This collection of writings and musings from the iconic American writer are taken from his time living and working in Paris in the 1920s. It was in this time that Hemingway committed himself to his work at unprecedented levels and found fruitful artistic experiences while living as an expatriate.
Today, I finished A Moveable Feast and have assembled my favorite quotes and passages from his memoirs.
- If you are lucky enough to have live in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
- …a memory or even a state of being that had become a part of you, a thing that you could have always with you, no matter where you went or how you lived forever after, that you could never lose. An experience first fixed in time and space or a condition like happiness or love could be afterward moved or carried with you wherever you went in space and time.
- I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Don’t worry. You have written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
- I did not want argue bout this nor try to explain again what I was trying to do about conversation. That was my own business and it was much more interesting to listen.
- I did not want to argue about that, although I thought that I had lived in a world such as it was and there were all kinds of people in it and I tried to understand them; but some of them I could not like and some I still hated.
- Work could cure almost anything, I believed then, and I believe it now.
- People were always the limiters to happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.
- It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending.
- We should live in this time now and have very minute of it.
- Memory is hunger.
- By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.
- I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be.
- When you are twenty-five and are a natural heavyweight, missing a meal completely makes you very hungry.
- “You like me, don’t you, Monsieur?” she asked me.
“Very much.” “But you’re too big,” she said sadly.
“Everyone is the same size in bed.”
- They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.
- If a man liked his friends’ painting or writing, I thought it was probably like those people who like their families and it was not polite to criticize them.
- He was also irascible but so, I believe, have been many saints.
- Walking home I tired to think what he reminded me of and there were various things. They were all medical except toe-jam and that was a slang word. I tried to break his face down and describe it but I could only get the eyes. Under the black hatt, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.
- In the end everyone, or not quite everyone, made friends again in order not to be stuffy or righteous. I did too. But I could never make friends agains truly, neither in my heart nor in my head. When you cannot make friends any more in your head is the worst.
- “We need more true mystery in our lives, Hem,” he once said to me. “The completely unambitious writer and the really good unpublished poem are the things we lack most at this time. There is, of course, the problem of sustenance.”
- Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride. In the mechanics of how this was penetrated I have never tried to apportion the blame, except my own part, and that was clearer all my life. The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work all that came out of it is not part this book. I wrote it and left it out. It is a complicated, valuable and instructive story. How it all ended, finally, has nothing to do with this either. Any blame that was mine to take and possess and understand. The only one, Hadley, who has no possible blame, ever, came well out of it finally and married a much finer man than I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it and that was one good and lasting thing that came of that year.
- I was getting tired of the literary life, if this was the literary life, if this was the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death of loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life.
- People who interfered in your life always did it for your own good and I figured it out finally that what they wanted was for you to conform completely and never differ from some accepted surface standard and then dissipate the way traveling sales would at a convention in every stupid and boreing way there was.
- The people who attract people by their happiness and their performance are usually inexperienced but they never learn quite rapidly how not to be overrun and they learn how to go away. But they have not learned about the good, the attractive, then charming, the soon-beloved, the generous, the understanding rich who have no bad qualities and who give each day the quality of a festival and who, when they have passed and taken the nourishment they needed, leave everything deader than the roots of any grass Attila’s horses’ hooves have ever scoured.
- All things truly wicked must start from an innocence.
- Nobody climbs on skis now and almost everybody breaks their legs but maybe it is easier in the end to break your legs than to break your heart although they say that everything breaks now and that sometimes, afterwards, many are stronger at the broken places.
- This book is fiction, but there is always a chance that such a work of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.
Yesterday was November 2nd, but more importantly, in Latin America, yesterday was the Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos. I suppose some might consider it shame that I’ve now celebrated Dia de los Muerto in El Salvador before celebrating it in Mexico, but as I often feel, I’ve never been one for doing things in the right order.
Luckily, I had the ability to accompany Nelson and his family for their celebration. The day started with waking up around 6am to be at his family’s house around 7am. We had some coffee and sweet bread then made our way to the cemetery, the idea being to get there with Nelson’s grandmother, who has difficulty walking, before the huge crowds arrive. Once we arrived at the cemetery, we walked amongst the tombs and graves with young boys approaching you offering to repaint or clean the gravesite we were headed to. After walking about halfway into the cemetery, we reached the site where much of Nelson’s family is buried.
I’ve said it before and I will confidentially say it again, cemeteries in Latin America are much more beautiful than those in the United States. The style of graves is very different and every family is given free reign to do what they wish on their plot of land. Most build cement structures that resemble churches and then paint them vibrant and vivid colors. Cemeteries do not seem like glum, tragic places, but rather a location to celebrate the lives of those who have passed.
An element that took me off guard was the noticeable class differences in the graves themselves. Wealthier Salvadorians build almost cathedrals, while the poorer people put up a simple cross if they can afford it. Side by side to these giant monuments are small plots of land with a humble cross.
Even the matter of the land where your family members are buried reveals class structure. Consider the fact that citizens rent the ground family members are buried on for a time. I saw some tombs marked with the years 2012, 2013 and 2015. At first, I was confused, but Nelson’s aunt explained to me that future years marked the end of the family’s deed on the land. Once that year is reached, the bones are dug up and placed into a large cement structure, called the “huesera.” Other families, like Nelson’s, purchased the land their family is buried on and do not have to worry about their deed running out.
Once we arrived at the tomb for Nelson’s family, his aunts ordained the tomb with garlands of colorful, fake flowers. Why fake flowers? I asked that question too. Apparently, due to outbreaks of dengue fever, leaving open containers of water in the cemetery is now prohibited. While fresh flowers are still allowed, the intense heat kills them quickly, so fake flowers have become the preferred means of paying respects.
After our initial visit and a round of prayers (Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be), we returned to the house of Nelson’s grandparents had a larger breakfast to only return to the cemetery for a later morning mass. On our return trip, the streets were packed. It seemed as though everyone from Suchitoto made the trek. Nelson also told me that many people from San Salvador have family buried in Suchitoto and thus journey to the cemetery here every Dia de los Muertos. Outside the cemetery, there were vendors selling fake flowers, food, drinks and even desserts.
Mass itself was said just a little past the main gates and the priest reiterated the larger points of the holiday in his Homily. Mainly he reiterated that death should not be viewed strictly as a tragedy. That death, alongside birth, it is the only guarantee promised to us in our existence. Personally, I prefer that view of death. This past year especially, for whatever reason, I’ve pondered that exact same thing. Why must we fear the things we can’t control? Wouldn’t it make more sense to embrace the few things we do know for sure? Then again, humanity’s never made much sense to me.
Following mass, Nelson’s family led us around cemetery and I ran into several of the friends I’ve made while being here. Running into friends in a graveyard, that’s definitely a new one. On the way out, Nelson’s cousin, Hugo, bought us all ‘minutas’ or snowcones.
One the drive back to the house, I thought about seeing Latino families at San Fernando Mission cemetery back home, hanging out with their cooler and making a day of it. When I was little and we’d visit my grandpa, I thought this was hugely disrespectful. They were treating the cemetery like a park. After this experience, and a few others in Mexico, it’s really not insulting to me at all anymore. Death hits us all differently and effects us deeply. I don’t begrudge anyone their mourning process, for all I know, their way is much more healing than my own.